Nasser Al-Khelaifi confident ECA members will benefit from FIFA agreement

European Club Association chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi is confident the new Memorandum of Understanding with FIFA will protect its members in plans for an expanded Club World Cup and revised international match calendar.

The revamped Club World Cup will feature a 32-team tournament played every four years from 2025, featuring 12 European teams.

There had also been concern from leagues over an expanded World Cup to 48 nations from 2026, which will involve 104 matches after the FIFA Council approved a four-team group format.

The MoU plays a crucial role to the functioning of the club-country relationship as it governs the release of players for international dates.

The World Cup club benefits programme, which sees clubs compensated for the release of players to take part in the showpiece tournament, will now total 355 million US dollars (£289.1m) for 2026 and 2030.

Paris St Germain president Al-Khelaifi admits the discussions with the global governing body were “not easy”, but believes the final agreed outcome serves all parties.

“FIFA want to protect themselves and we want to protect the club interests,” Al-Khelaifi said at a press conference during the ECA General Assembly in Budapest, Hungary.

“In the end, each party understands that interest, but if we come together, it benefits everybody.

“Clubs will benefit from the 70 per cent increase in terms of revenue and the solidarity that we will have for the Club World Cup.

“The ECA actually care also about the clubs outside of Europe, so it is not just about us.”

Al-Khelaifi added: “We have other people (clubs) that want to participate, they want to be part of the European competition, the Club World Cup, part of the big events and this has given them the hope.

“If not, then let’s go with the Super League, if you suggest that, which will be a nightmare. We need to expand it (Club World Cup) and leave it open (competition).”

Oliver Kahn
Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn feels the agreement with FIFA a “great outcome” for clubs (Nick Potts/PA)

Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn admitted the lengthy discussions with FIFA tackled “very serious questions which should be answered”.

The former Germany goalkeeper, a vice-chairman on the ECA executive board, said: “The MoU is a very important instrument when it comes to the protection of clubs in critical areas, like the match calendar, player insurance, a club benefit programme, so from the point of view of the clubs it is a great outcome.

“It brings stability to the game and also to the relationship between clubs and FIFA.”

The ECA will continue discussions with FIFA over qualification criteria for the Club World Cup and the balance of teams from each region.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus will also have the chance to take part, even though not now members of the ECA following the fallout from the breakaway European Super League.

“They will participate if they (qualify) on the co-efficient and the ranking,” said Al-Khelaifi. “For sure they will benefit, definitely, but of solidarity, I don’t know. We will see, but they will play for sure.”

On Tuesday, the ECA General Assembly voted unanimously to open up membership to more participation and representation which will see an increase in clubs eligible for seats on the executive board, women’s clubs as full members and expansion of the organisation’s network.

Ajax chief executive Edwin Van Der Sar said: “We have seen today also some examples in our meetings about the flow of money that goes from the big leagues, or from UEFA, towards mid-sized countries to smaller countries, from big clubs to small clubs and even smaller clubs.

“It is a system that somehow works, of course. Are there things that you want to change? Yes – and that is why we have good communication between the stakeholders which is still ongoing.

“A few of the topics we have to readdress and we are confident that that we can find the solution for that.”